Heaven gained a new ace on Aug. 31.
New York Mets fans and the entire baseball community continue to mourn the loss of the great Tom Seaver, who died at the age of 75 due to complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.
Simply put, Seaver was the best the Mets ever had. The best. He was quite literally “The Franchise” as his nickname indicates. In fact, there may not be a better and more accurate sports nickname than “The Franchise” for George Thomas Seaver.
Several of our diocesan priests fondly remember “Tom Terrific,” the Hall of Fame power right-handed pitcher with 311 career victories and 3,640 strike-outs in his 20 big-league seasons.
“I was a big, big fan of Tom Seaver, as everybody was,” said Father Danny Murphy, former Mets team chaplain and former pastor at St. Saviour, Park Slope, who now serves at Holy Cross Church in Vero Beach, Fla.
In a recent homily, Father Murphy reflected on something Seaver said about pitching: “Any pitcher can win when he has his good stuff. The challenge is to win when you don’t have your good stuff.”
As Catholics, Father Murphy said, it’s easy to be kind and generous on good days, but it’s more of a challenge to do so when you don’t have your “good stuff .” Seaver was able to channel his inner strength even on bad days to give his team a chance to win.
Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius-St. Dominic, Bensonhurst, as well as the new vicar for diocesan Catholic schools, became a Mets fan when the Brooklyn Dodgers headed out west following the 1957 season.
The first few years of Mets history were very tough on fans of the “Lovable Losers,” but that all changed in 1967 when a 22-year-old Seaver burst onto the scene and captured the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
“He (Seaver) was a great, great ballplayer and more than anything else a role model for young people,” Msgr. Cassato said.
“He’s the greatest pitcher the Mets have had, and I would say that he’s the greatest pitcher that I ever saw in my life. He brought the Mets up a notch and made them contenders.”
When he won his first of three Cy Young Awards during the magical year of 1969, he was utterly dominant. July 9 of that year was one of his best starts of the season, yet it will always be known as the “Imperfect Game.”
Father Patrick West, administrator at St. Sebastian, Woodside, used to collect Borden Milk coupons to attend Mets games for free. Everyone on his paper route used to save their coupons for him, since they knew how much he loved the Metsies.
On July 9, 1969, Father West and 10 other kids from the neighborhood were seated high in the nose-bleed section at Shea Stadium to witness near perfection, as Seaver retired the first 25 batters to face him.
With one out in the ninth inning, Chicago Cubs center fielder Jimmy Qualls blooped a soft liner to left center fi eld to break up the historic bid. That was one of only 31 career hits for Qualls in 139 at-bats over parts of three seasons.
Still, Seaver closed out the complete-game shutout in what was a major highlight of the Miracle Mets’ journey to a World Series title.
“That was the most memorable game in which I was there to watch Seaver pitch,” Father West said. Father Ed Kachurka, pastor at Mary’s Nativity-St. Ann parish, Flushing, is as avid a Mets fan as they come and also served as a good-charm for Seaver. But let’s be honest, Seaver didn’t need much luck.
“I saw a number of his classic games,” Father Kachurka said. “Every time I saw him, he always won. I never saw Tom Seaver lose a ballgame in person.”
Seaver was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 and had his number retired by the Mets in 1988. Father Bill Sweeney, pastor at St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, was at Shea for the number retirement ceremony.
“It felt like it was the end of my childhood,” said Father Sweeney of that powerful moment. “Seaver stood on the mound, and he bowed to everybody in the stands saying it was the fans that kept him going.”
For many longtime Mets fans, Seaver’s passing does signify the end of their childhood. What a truly amazin’ ride it was!
A statue of Seaver will soon be placed outside Citi Field so that younger Mets fans can appreciate his greatness.
After all, there would be no franchise without “The Franchise.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.